"Magic is not a purely intellectual exercise carried out without risk from the proverbial armchair."
Julio Cesar Ody packs a lot into the slim volume that is Magister Officiorum. But a large part of what sets it apart is the flavor. Sure, its a different sort of book than we are used to seeing on this material (Solomonic Magic, if you weren't sure what we were talking about): heavy on the praxis light on the armory, so the soup has some different ingredients; but its really the flavor that sets it apart.
From the preface on, Julio (may I call you Julio?) brings a flavor to the proceedings that is unlike any we find in contemporary books on the topic of Solomonic Magic. The preface itself is moving, and chilling, and I have no issue what-so-ever in accepting that Julio's magic works in this way. Mine doesn't, but it brushes up against the edges in enough ways that I can recognize a truthful revelation of personal experience.
Its that flavor that we are after; its familiar and just a little exotic at the same time. The flavor is authentic and lifts the source material from its umpteenth iteration of dusty Latin translation to something far more than just edible: it makes it delicious.
The formation of correct understanding of its [Solomonic Magic] ritual specifics and paraphernalia can in no way be assisted by drawing shallowly on the assumed realities of initiatory traditions from Africa and New World cults. In those instances, what may in principle resemble a series of gestures and words one could otherwise fairly call a technique, something by definition transplantable, is hardly ever simply "it". The patronage of spirits is in every motion and every word, and ritual transpires in unison between the initiate and the spirits. That adds a meaningful aspect to what is in the first instances partially a ruse, albeit a well-designed one. We don the robe and wield the blade to become as-a-paragon, and in this capacity we speak curses and chains that are familiar to the spirits and in that moment we are witnessed by all the names we have uttered.
Julio brings more to the table than just a refreshing turn of phrase. In Magister Officiorum he details a place to begin, a path to greater and greater discourse with the spirits. Going to the roots of the literature via Hygromanteia and traversing its many branches through time, he provides, for the intrepid, a subset of tools and an approach designed to provide results not just a positional viewpoint for adverserial discourse.
I haven't personally worked the system as presented, though when the time comes for me to "wield the blade", Magister Officiorum will be my guidebook.
Update: So, I got a retweet from Scarlet Imprint, the publishers of this fine work; I realized that I did not mention that I recieved a Fine Edition of Magister Officiorum as a present for my solar return last year, and it is by far the finest (no pun intended) volume I have ever owned. You can get your own copy here, though the Fine Edition is sold out.